What if intelligence was a state and not a trait?
Science moves forward in a variety of ways. Most commonly, it is by incremental ‘brick building’ where many people contribute individual bricks that eventually build a wall of knowledge around a topic. However, sometimes people advance science by breaking a hole through such walls.
For many years, neuroscience and pyschologists have told us that real intelligence, what is called ‘fluid intelligence,’ was an inate characteristic in people that was stable through life. You could certainly learn more, acquire a great deal of knowledge, but the base level of fluid intelligence that allows you to solve problems, recognize patterns, etc. was something you were stuck with from birth.
New research from Susanne Jäggi, a post-doctoral visiting scholar in psychology at the University of Michigan, and her colleagues suggests that fluid intelligence may be developed through training. Although her work is preliminary and based on lab experiments, she has shown that by completing very specific types of word game type exercises, over time the brain can be trained to enhance its raw capabilities. Although Jäggi and colleagues are hardly the first to test these ideas, in fact education specialists have been trying to develop brains for thousands of years, they are the first to present hard evidence to support their contention that fluid intelligence had been improved.
If this work holds up, and there are a ton of people pushing this new line of work in every direction, it could have a dramatic influence on all kinds of fields, from education to human resources. In fact, assessing fluid intelligence has been proven as the single best predictor of future job performance (and many other types of performance) for job candidate selection available. Because such intelligence was viewed as a stable trait, no one could ‘fake’ their way into a high score. If people can jack up this characteristic with training, it will raise some interesting questions.
To take the next step, are there upper limits on development? Can everyone develop their fluid intelligence, or does it vary by person? Can this be used to help people with brain injuries or mental disabilities? The questions go on.
Ok, enough on this. I need to go do a Sudoku.